What happened last night?


Accompanying the inevitable hangover, this is an all too common question following an evening, or morning, I’m not here to judge, of alcohol-infused merriment. At face value this question could be in response to any number of mysteries: where is my wallet? Why does my face hurt? Who is that and why are they wearing my dressing gown? However, from a scientific point of view, I think this is an extremely interesting question.

So why does drinking alcohol boost confidence and give you that warm fuzzy feeling? Why are your inhibitions lowered?  Why does your bladder suddenly seem to shrink to the size of a walnut? and why, the next day, does it feel like someone ran a bulldozer through your brain?

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It’ll all come out in the wash…

We’ve all been there – the ever more precarious looking pile of filth by the sink continually grows, and eating dinner with a spatula out of the pan suddenly seems like a great idea. Newly dirtied utensils are carefully added to the pile, in the hope that the washing up can be put off for a few hours longer. Eventually, however, we must yield.

There is no doubt that washing up is a tedious task; however, have you ever stopped to wonder what is happening beneath the bubbles? Dirty dishes go in, wipe wipe wipe, and clean dishes emerge, as if by magic. If you tried to do this with just water it would be an almost futile effort, yet with the addition of a small drop of soapy gel, it becomes so much simpler. What, therefore, does the washing up liquid do to help de-grease and de-grime your utensils? The revelation will hopefully make your washing up time a little more interesting.

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When I first had the idea to start a blog to communicate some aspects of science that I not only find fascinating, but think other people also would, DNA seemed like the obvious place to start. After all, it is the ‘building block of life’, the simple double helix that makes you unique, as well as the subject of an innumerable amount of nauseating metaphors from sports stars, proclaiming that winning is “in my DNA”.

On a famous night in 1953, 84 years after the forgotten Friedrich Miescher had discovered DNA, although he named it nuclein, James Watson and Francis Crick exclaimed to the punters of The Eagle pub in Cambridge that they had ‘solved the secret of life’, which turned out to be a double helix, not 42. Yet how many people can tell you what this simple acronym actually stands for? And why is it a double helix, and why is this important? This article will explain the basics about what makes up DNA and why it is arranged in this elegant fashion, forming what is one of the most beautiful and well recognised molecules in biology.

Read moreDNAmazing!